The picture above is not related to Les Anciens Canadiens, except indirectly. Aubert de Gaspé refers to noble savages in his chapter entitled The Good Gentleman.
I published this photograph in a post about Alexis de Tocqueville and Gustave de Beaumont‘s visit to Lower Canada (1831). We may be looking at an Amerindian selling fur to an habitant. Amerindians loved blankets and, as we can see, haut-de-forme (high) hats. These were made of beaver skin. In Nouvelle-France, Amerindians often wanted alcohol in exchange for their pelts, which quickly led to addiction. Amerindians could not tolerate alcohol. François de Laval (1623-1807), the Bishop of Quebec, threatened to excommunicate persons giving alcohol in return for pelts. This picture is entitled Habitant and Winter Sleigh, which suggests art produced after the “conquest.” Is our habitant holding a bottle?
Residential Schools for Amerindians
A few weeks ago, the remains of 215 Amerindian children were found outside a residential school (un pensionnat) in Kamloops, British Columbia. At Marieval Residential School, in Saskatchewan, 751 bodies have now been found in unmarked graves. These children cannot be identified. Canadians will continue to dig and investigate. Both the Kamloops and Marieval residential schools were operated by Catholic orders.
This happened at a time in history when Amerindians were not considered “civilized.” A Gradual Civilization Act was passed in 1857, but it was not active until the passage of the Indian Act in 1876. Would that we could say that viewing Amerindians as uncivilized has ended.
The native depicted in the image at the top of this post does not look powerless. As for Benjamin West’s native, he is a “Noble Savage.” Did Canada need the Indian Act? We are nearing Canada Day, a celebration of Confederation. But Confederation led to the creation of Indian Reserves and Residential Schools. Moreover, Quebec became the only Canadian province where the language of instruction could be French or English. The British Empire was at its zenith.
Love to everyone 💕
© Micheline Walker
26 June 2021
updated 27 June 2021